Covid rule changes across the UK amid test shortages

All four nations across the UK have announced changes to Covid-19 requirements following a week of PCR test shortages and rising cases. The latest developments are outlined below:


The Prime Minister has announced that from 4am on Friday 7th January, pre-departure testing for people travelling overseas from England will no longer be required.

The requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receipt of a negative PCR will also be removed for those arriving into England and will be replaced with the need to undertake a lateral flow test no later than the end of Day 2. If this test is positive, the person will then need to have a PCR test in order to identify any new variants entering the country.

Mr Johnson suggested scrapping the pre-departure test will mean people can avoid the “fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expenses”.

Also rom 11th January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device test results for coronavirus will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. The change comes amid a shortage of tests.

The PM also announced last night (5.01.22) that England’s current Plan B rules will remain in place for at least another three weeks, with a review expected by 26th January.

He said: “In response to the latest data the cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick with Plan B for another three weeks with a further review before the regulations expire on 26 January,” he said.

“I know some might therefore ask whether this means we can now do away with measures altogether, but I’m sorry to report that hospital admissions are rising rapidly, doubling around every nine days, with already more than 15,000 Covid patients in hospital in England alone.

“We’re experiencing the fastest growth in Covid cases we’ve ever known.”

View the latest statement from the PM here and the press release here.


In a similar move to England, the Welsh government also announced that fully vaccinated people travelling to Wales from abroad will no longer have to take a Covid test before their departure or a PCR test after their arrival.

Instead, incoming visitors will be required to take a lateral flow test on day two after arrival into the country. The changes will come into effect from 4am on 7th January, with lateral flow tests accepted as post-arrival tests from 9th January.

The Welsh government is, however, advising against all but essential travel. Health Minister Eluned Morgan stating the new changes were being made “reluctantly.”

Ms Morgan said: “We are concerned at the speed at which the UK government is re-opening international travel, given on-going concerns of importing new variants and adding additional pressure to our health services.

“Day two PCR testing acts as something of a surveillance system for international travel – if we had retained the requirement for a day two PCR test we may have been alerted to the presence and introduction of omicron earlier.

“Given the UK government’s decision to remove PCR testing, it is vital we work across the four nations to ensure a system of bio-surveillance is maintained to provide a way of guarding against the importation of future variants.”

From today (6.1.21), anyone who has a positive lateral flow test, but does not have symptoms, will no longer need to take a PCR test to confirm they have Covid.

For further guidance on the current rules in Wales, click here.


Scottish residents who test positive for Covid but exhibit no fever and record two negative lateral flow tests will now be allowed to exit self-isolation after seven days.

The move brings Scotland into line with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

People living in the same household with someone who has tested positive will be allowed to take tests rather than going into quarantine, so long as they’ve had their booster jab. The changes take place from midnight on 5th January.

Scotland’s other Covid restrictions are to remain in place for at least another week, with ministers to review the situation again on 11th January.

Ms Sturgeon said she expected that restrictions on large gatherings and the requirement for physical distancing and table service in hospitality venues will remain in force until 17th January at the earliest.

Click here for more information on the changes.

Northern Ireland

People in Northern Ireland who receive a positive lateral flow test no longer require a PCR test to confirm the result.

The changes come into force today (6.1.21) as a result of staff shortages across the health service due to self-isolation. If your lateral flow is positive, you should assume you have Covid-19  and that you are infectious and should therefore self-isolate immediately.

From Friday 7th January, people will also have to prove they are exempt from wearing face coverings on public transport and shops. There will be a legal duty on businesses to enforce the wearing of coverings.

More information can be found here.

For more updates on Covid-19 from us, look here

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